According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of all U.S. children are born to parents who are not married to each other. This marks a significant increase in recent years as the percentage was 18.4% in 2007. Not being married to the other parent poses more problems for a father. In Minnesota, the mother's rights are typically established when the child is born. Fathers, on the other hand, will have to take steps to establish paternity in many cases.
While it makes sense that family courts want to focus on the needs of children, many Minnesota parents may be uncertain about how they determine the best interests of the child. This standard is used to make decisions about child custody and visitation, and there are a number of factors that the courts keep in mind in order to come to a conclusion about the preferable custody arrangement. In general, family courts want to make sure that both parents have an active role in their children's lives absent a situation of abuse or neglect. However, that framework can look different for various families based on their needs and circumstances.
Some unmarried and divorced fathers in Minnesota might face obstacles when it comes to paying child support and getting access to their children. For example, one father was jailed for not paying child support, lost his job and had to declare bankruptcy. Another was blocked from seeing his children by a protection order while a third did not get equal custody of his child from a brief relationship in which he was not married to the mother. Furthermore, most custodial parents are mothers, and some courts may tend to favor them.
When parents in Minnesota head to court for a child custody hearing, they may be confused about what to expect and even intimidated by the process. However, people can be ready for their hearings by getting prepared in advance and learning more about what to expect. Preparation is particularly key when making a case for custody, and it can include factors from wearing the right clothes to being ready to present a logistical plan for the children's care.
Minnesota parents who get divorced will have to find ways to raise their children while separated. While this can be difficult, courts generally operate from the position that children should be encouraged to maintain a healthy relationship with both parents after divorce.
Child custody and support issues may be more complicated than they initially appear for many Minnesota families. Interaction with the family court system can be complicated by other social factors like race and poverty. The effect of the child support enforcement system on the relationships between fathers and children is explored in a documentary, "Where's Daddy?" The film looks specifically at the situation of African American fathers and how their relationships with their children have been affected by their involvement with the family courts and child support enforcement.